Saturday, June 28, 2014

My Therapist, My Enemy

During the incredible Hulk's final hours at the "crossroads"--the interdimensional nexus where he was sent when he'd become a creature of pure rage and his Bruce Banner persona was thought to be irretrievably lost--the monster was taken through an introspection by Banner's subconscious which seemed to conclusively establish that the Hulk was given form not simply by exposure to gamma rays, but also by Banner's buried perception of self. It's something Leonard Samson's analysis only briefly explored, and where Samson, despite all he'd seen within the Hulk's own thoughts, unfortunately drew the wrong conclusion:

Yet, here at the crossroads, Banner--now having faced his demons (or, rather, "demon," in the form of his abusive father)--would realize that the rage within the Hulk is his own, with science having unleashed its destructive potential. And now he finds himself back at square one. As a man, he would be like any of us who had issues to work through--exploring the cause(s) behind them, putting them into perspective and finding a way to live with them. For the most part, we've now seen Banner do just that; but he is still the Hulk, and he is still apparently doomed to spend his life transforming into a creature who will unpredictably act out on that rage.

And so, he attempts to end his life. But he finds himself foiled by the very nature of the crossroads, as well as another part of him that has no wish to die at all:

This would be writer Bill Mantlo's final story for the book--and it would serve not only to bring Banner full circle, but also to return the Hulk to his former state before Nightmare had tampered with him and suppressed Banner's unconscious influence.

The Hulk would find his escape from the crossroads through an encounter with Alpha Flight. But word of the Hulk's return to Earth would eventually reach not only John Byrne, who now takes over the book as both writer and artist, but also another--someone we've come to know as having developed a professional interest in both Bruce Banner and his gamma-spawned counterpart:

Samson has just enough time to reminisce about the Hulk's origins, when a creature who could teach anyone how to make an entrance provides Samson's little recorder with one heck of a sound bite:

And if you think this is going to lead to another rumble with Samson and the Hulk--well, you're just cheating, because with all the Doc Samson reading you've been doing lately it doesn't exactly take The Amazing Kreskin to figure out where this is headed. Unfortunately, it may seem to you that this match-up feels like we've hit rewind/play--because while Samson again starts out looking like he's got every reason to be confident:

...the point comes when he has to face reality.

Annnnnd the doctor is OUT. But when Samson wakes up, he finds that the Hulk is in the midst of battling phantasms--in this case, a collection of his old foes:

(Jeez, I don't know who manufactured that little recording unit, but it definitely deserves to have "shatter-proof" as part of its advertising.)

And so we have reason to be grateful that Banner is once again able to exert some level of influence on the Hulk--arranging for him to hallucinate to the point of lowering his guard, thereby giving Samson the opportunity he's been waiting for:

It's a pleasant surprise to have seen Samson come this far--from regarding the Hulk as a means of putting him on a fast track to hero-dom, to taking an active interest in the welfare of Bruce Banner, a unique "patient" whose condition can be addressed through Samson's experience in both psychiatry and gamma radiation. Yet Samson knows nothing of Banner's progress during his time in the crossroads--and so he instead draws on his own flawed analysis thus far of the connection between Banner and the Hulk to determine his next step:

It's an approach that no sane therapist would recommend. But yes, Samson is planning to take a virtual scalpel and create what he still believes to be two separate beings. When we continue with this story, I'm sure it will all have worked out splendidly.

Also, the polar ice caps will fix themselves.

(This post covers events from Incredible Hulk #s 313 and 314.)

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